For the last five years, we worked with Jennie Alexander to revise her classic “Make a Chair from a Tree” book to her satisfaction and include all her latest thoughts and approaches to building her iconic ladderback chair.
Jennie’s efforts were assisted primarily by chairmaker and friend Larry Barrett and Jennie Boyd, who cared for Jennie Alexander in her Baltimore home during her final years.
With Jennie Alexander’s death this summer, we had to evaluate the future of the book. Could it be completed in a way that would make Jennie happy? Did we have the support of people who could help us finish the book? Did we have the support of the family and heirs?
The good news is that we are now moving at full speed to complete “Make a Chair from a Tree, Third Edition” for publication next year. The writing is almost complete. What is left is taking new photographs of the chair’s construction and commissioning new illustrations.
Larry will build the chair for the photographs. And we will enlist many other people who were close to Jennie to help us finish this book in a way that would make her happy.
I suspect this is the outcome Jennie anticipated all along.
During the last five years, Jennie and I butted heads whenever I applied gentle pressure to turn over her manuscript to me. If you have ever met Jennie, then you know that such tactics are futile. At one point I said to her: “Don’t you want to see your book published and see it influence a whole new generation of woodworkers?”
Jennie shot back: “You and Larry will do that after I’m gone.”
At that moment it became clear to me that Jennie saw the work on the book as her purpose at the end of her life. Taking the book away from her would remove that purpose. I backed off.
So don’t pay $500 (or whatever the book gougers are asking) for a used copy of “Make a Chair from a Tree.” In less than a year, we will have an outstanding new edition for you that will cost a small fraction of that and will be more durable.
In the meantime, we will soon offer the video version of “Make a Chair from a Tree” for sale as a streaming video on our site. We have reached an agreement with the maker of the video, Anatol Polillo, to offer the video for sale for $25. The streaming video will include a pdf download of a packet of drawings from Jennie that explain the dimensions and jigs discussed in the video.
With any luck, we should have that video available within two weeks.
— Christopher Schwarz
Personal side note: This has been one of the most difficult years of my professional life. I lost my father in February. And I’ve spent the last nine months racing to get “The Intelligent Hand” to press to beat David Savage’s cancer. Simultaneously, I worked into the wee hours to get “Welsh Stick Chairs” to press before the 10-year anniversary of John Brown’s death. And then Jennie died – opening a whole can of contractual worms. So I ask all our current authors: Please stay healthy.